UK – BREXIT: No-Deal Brexit Measures for UK Nationals in the EU

What has changed

If the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019 (or later, after an extension of the Article 50 period) without a ratified withdrawal agreement, then UK nationals will become third-country (non-EU) nationals immediately.

Please also see our broader examination of the possible Brexit outcomes for both UK and EU citizens.

Here we examine the latest measures established or proposed to manage UK nationals in the EU in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Who is affected

Clients who have hired or intend to employ UK nationals and their family members within member states of the EU. Also, clients who hire or intend to employ EU citizens and their family members in the UK.

What to expect

General Measures

EU law lays down the conditions governing entry into and short-term residence (up to ninety [90] days in any one-hundred and eighty [180] day period) in the EU for third-country nationals. Longer stays are the responsibility of individual states, which can regulate this in their domestic law. However, the EU may also adopt measures to regulate longer stays and work permits when trying to attain objectives at the EU level.

If the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement, the following situation is expected:
  • UK nationals wishing to visit the EU for up to ninety (90) days will likely be able to do so without a visa, provided that the UK reciprocates for EU nationals (subject to the necessary legislation).
  • Falling under the visa-free regime means UK nationals will need to apply for ETIAS travel authorization prior to a trip to the EU, after January 1, 2021.
  • UK nationals wishing to enter an EU member state for stays of more than ninety (90) days will require a visa.
  • UK nationals wishing to enter an EU member state for work will need to apply for work authorization, like other third-country nationals. They may qualify for short-term work permit exemptions where available.
  • UK nationals already resident in an EU member state by Brexit day will likely be able to stay and continue to work if they register in time, although this will depend on unilateral arrangements made by individual member states, which in turn may depend on a reciprocal offer by the UK.
  • Note that, after Brexit, a residence status in one(1) member state will not provide work or residence rights in any other member state.

On February 27, 2019, the UK government accepted an amendment by Conservative MP Alberto Costa, which proposed that the UK and EU commit to the citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement in the case of no deal.

On March 4, 2019, the UK government sent a letter to the lead EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, requesting that both sides consider solutions for safeguarding citizens’ rights.

National Measures

Individual EU member states are in the process of establishing special arrangements for British citizens in the case of a no-deal Brexit, often with the proviso that a reciprocal offer by the UK is confirmed.

The following are details of measures already announced by member states – details will be updated as plans are clarified.


The Austrian government is working on a draft law (Brexit-Begleitgesetz), which grants documented UK nationals and their non-EU family members living in Austria six (6) months from the date of a no-deal Brexit to apply for a residence permit with free access to the labor market under simplified conditions. Applicants will continue to be legally resident until a decision has been made on their application. More information is available here.


The Belgian government is preparing a draft bill and has approved a draft royal decree which, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, would introduce a transitional period from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020 in which UK citizens already resident in Belgium can continue to live in Belgium, and apply for long-term residence as third country nationals. Family members arriving after March 29, would be able to join these British citizens, but new UK national arrivals would be treated as third-country nationals. More information is available here.


The government has drafted legislative amendments which allow UK nationals and their family members living in Bulgaria to remain in the country until December 31, 2020, under the same conditions. If they wish to stay longer, they will have to apply for re-registration and will receive new residence permits maintaining their existing residence rights. Issuance of the residence permit will take up to one (1) month, and applicants will be given a temporary permit for that period.


Amendments to a draft bill on EEA nationals and their family members have been proposed to allow UK nationals and their family members already resident in Croatia to maintain their existing residence status and right to work without obtaining additional authorization. Existing residence documents will be recognized for up to one (1) year after the Act enters in force, or until expiry if sooner. Within a year from entry into force of the Act, new residence documents must be issued.


The government has stated that, in the case of a no-deal Brexit, the rights of UK nationals and their family members currently residing in Cyprus will be protected. Residence documents under the directive 2004/38/EC will continue to be valid, until replaced. Legislation is being drafted to unilaterally implement the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, and new applications will be examined when this legislation is set into force.

Czech Republic

The Czech government and lower house of parliament have approved a draft law (“Lex Brexit”) which provides for a twenty-one (21) month transition period (until the end of 2020) to allow UK nationals and their family members who have already applied for registration or residence in the Czech Republic by Brexit day to legally stay and work. During this transitional period, those with a certificate of temporary residence must apply for a long-term or permanent residence permit for third-country nationals. Those who already hold a permanent residence permit need to upgrade to a new biometric residence card.


The Danish government has published details of a planned temporary transitional scheme extending, for an undetermined period, the rights of UK nationals and their family members already resident in Denmark on March 29, 2019, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


On February 21, 2019, the Estonian parliament passed a Brexit Act, covering both deal and no-deal scenarios. In case of no deal, UK nationals and their family members already resident in Estonia will be able to continue to reside there and to obtain a residence permit. Existing ID cards will continue to be valid until expiry. From April 1, 2020, UK nationals will be issued new residence cards.

All UK citizens who wish to settle in Estonia after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will have to apply for a residence permit like all other citizens of third countries.

More information is available here.


The Finnish government has proposed a special act extending the rights of UK nationals and their family members in Finland for the eventuality of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.

Under this special act, UK nationals and their family members who are living in Finland and who have registered their EU right of residence by March 29, 2019 can continue to stay and work in Finland without any separate measures at least until the end of 2020. The special act would only apply to those who have been registered. If the registration has not been made, in case of a no-deal Brexit, unregistered UK citizens in Finland will be third-country nationals, and they will not have the right to reside in the country as of March 30, unless the EU and the United Kingdom agree on visa-free travel. In this case, they could reside legally in the country for a further ninety (90) days. All UK citizens (who have not done so already) are therefore urged to register their residence here as soon as possible, and no later than March 29, 2019.


The French parliament has passed legislation enabling the government to rapidly issue decrees in response to a no-deal Brexit situation. These decrees include one protecting the rights of UK nationals and their family members resident there by Brexit day.

On February 7, 2019, the first order on the residence and employment of British nationals in France in the case of a no-deal Brexit was published in the official journal.

According to this order, if the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified, British citizens resident in France before Brexit will be able to remain in France for between three (3) and twelve (12) months (to be decided by a future decree) without having to obtain residence authorization. If they wish to stay in France beyond this grace period, they will have to apply for the relevant residence permit within twelve (12) months of Brexit, but the exact procedure and deadlines will be established in a future decree.

If working in France with a permanent or fixed-term employment contract before Brexit, they will not be required to obtain a work permit.


National residence and/or work permits will be required for UK nationals and their family members who wish to continue to reside and/or work in Germany after a no-deal Brexit, as they would be considered third-country nationals.

However, UK nationals and their family members will not need to leave Germany by this date, but will have a three (3) month grace period in which to submit an application for a work and/or residence permit with the relevant local immigration office. If they have not already done so, they will also need to register with the registration authority at their place of residence. They will then be able to continue to live and work in Germany (along with their family members) until their application has been decided.

The authorities in Berlin have introduced an online registration system for UK national residents, who will have until June 30, 2019 to register in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


According to the Greek government’s Brexit website, in case of no-deal, UK nationals permanently living in Greece before March 29, 2019, already in possession of a registration certificate or a temporary or permanent residence document on the grounds of professional activity, study or vocational training, sufficient resources and/or health insurance, and their family members, will be asked to proceed, after January 1, 2020, to the municipal authorities and submit the relevant paperwork to exchange their certificates for new biometric resident cards.

UK nationals living in Greece before March 29, 2019 but not yet registered with the police authorities, may need to apply for a registration certificate before they can apply for a resident card.

A draft bill is currently being prepared on British citizens’ rights in Greece.


After Brexit, UK nationals will be granted preferential treatment based on a valid residence permit or registration document at the time of Brexit (see more here). New legislation is being developed.


The rights of UK nationals in Ireland (and vice-versa) are covered under the 1949 Ireland Act, which will continue to apply if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal. A no-deal Brexit will have no implications for UK nationals’ right to reside in Ireland.


The Italian government has announced that it is preparing legislation that will allow British citizens residing legally in Italy to remain resident in the event of a no-deal Brexit. British citizens registered as residents at their local registry office (‘anagrafe’) at their town hall (‘commune’) by March 29, 2019 will be granted the rights and enough time to apply for the long-term resident status as per EU Directive 2003/109/EC.


Changes to national legislation will provide for a transitional period until December 31, 2020 for UK nationals and their family members to renew their residence rights by obtaining a new residence document.

During this period, registration and permanent residence certificates issued before March 29, 2019 will be recognized as temporary national residence permits (unless they expire during this period). After they have obtained a new residence document, they will continue to reside in Latvia in accordance with the rules for residence of EU citizens. The same conditions will also apply to their family members who join them after March 29, 2019.

After March 29, 2019, each UK national holding a residence document will be sent a letter explaining the procedure for obtaining a new document – they will need to submit an application in a free format, with a copy of their valid travel document, by post, electronically (secure electronic signature is required), or personally in any regional office of the OCMA.

Citizens of the United Kingdom and their family who do not have a Latvian residence document must personally submit an application for a new residence document, attaching documents that prove their employment, study or self-employment activities in Latvia for at least six (6) months.

For more information see here.


Under draft amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, a transition/grace period of nine (9) months will allow issuance of residence permits to UK nationals and their families resident in Lithuania before March 29, 2019.


In a no-deal scenario, after March 29, 2019, British nationals living in Luxembourg will need to apply for a residence permit as a third-country national.

Those British nationals already living in Luxembourg on March 29, 2019 will be able to continue using their existing residence card as proof of residence until March 30, 2020. After this date, they will need to have a third-country residence permit and will need to apply for one before December 31, 2019.

British nationals, who wish to begin residing in Luxembourg after March 29, 2019, will need to follow the existing third-country national registration procedure. They are required to apply for a residence permit before entering Luxembourg and can only reside in Luxembourg once their application has been approved.


The Maltese government has stated that it intends to offer UK nationals resident in Malta on the withdrawal date continued residence in Malta, with open access to the labor market without an employment permit. Dependent family members will also be able to reside in Malta together with the family member, provided that relationship existed on the withdrawal date.

A new residence document reflecting this status will be issued, valid for ten (10) years and issued free of charge.


If no withdrawal agreement is reached, the Netherlands will introduce a transition period from March 29, 2019 until July 1, 2020. Before March 29, 2019, the Dutch Immigration Service (IND) will send all UK citizens and their non-EU family members living in the Netherlands a letter which will serve as their temporary residence permit during this transition period.

After this transition period, UK nationals and their family members who wish to stay, work, study in the Netherlands will require a residence permit, which they can obtain if they meet the same residence requirements that apply to EU citizens. The IND will send invitation letters to apply for a residence permit no later than April 1, 2020.

More information available here.


On January 11, 2019, the Polish government announced draft legislation including a one (1) year transition period (i.e., until March 30, 2019) to allow UK nationals and their family members to legally stay and work in Poland in a no-deal situation.

They will be able to secure their residence status by applying for a temporary residence permits valid for three (3) years under the same conditions as for all third-country nationals.

Also, fingerprints of all applicants will have to be submitted. Those who, on the day of submission, have already been in Poland for the last five (5) years, will be able to apply for a permanent residence permit.


Portugal intends to approve legislation granting a transition period until December 31, 2020 for UK nationals and their family members who are already in Portugal by Brexit day. During this period, they will be able to convert their registration or residence document into a residence permit. Those who have not previously registered but can prove residence before Brexit may also request this residence permit. If they have held a registration certificate for five (5) years, they can apply for a permanent residence card.


UK nationals, and their family members, who have a registration certificate issued prior to March 29, 2019 will receive a letter that will act as a temporary national residence permit, valid until December 31, 2019.

UK nationals, and their family members, who will have entered Romania before March 29, 2019 but do not yet have a registration certificate will have until June 30, 2019 to register. Those who have submitted a registration form by June 30, 2019 will also receive a letter that will act as a temporary national residence permit, valid until December 31, 2019.

UK nationals residing in Romania (with a right to stay) will have to apply for a new status, transitioning to the regime for third-country nationals, under specific conditions. The application period will be open from March 30, 2019 until December 31, 2019

For UK nationals, and their family members, with a long-term right to stay, there is intent to convert, under simplified procedures, documents attesting the right of permanent stay (under Directive 2004/38/EC) into long-term residence permits (under Directive 2003/109/EC).


The Slovak government has stated that it is working on all necessary legislative changes to ensure that as of March 29, 2019, the status of UK nationals and their family members living in Slovakia will be preserved, even in the case of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement. These measures will only be put into place on the basis of a reciprocal offer from the UK to Slovakian nationals.

Those who have resided continuously for at least five (5) years will be entitled to long-term residence, while those who have been resident for less than five (5) years will be entitled to permanent residence. In both cases, residence documents issued by March 29, 2019 will be valid until December 31, 2020, and the holder will be required to apply for a new residence document by that date.


Planned legislative amendments are under consideration.


The Spanish government has approved a royal decree containing contingency plans to allow UK nationals already resident in Spain by March 29, 2019 to maintain their rights. These UK nationals will have until December 31, 2020 to change their status as EU citizens to a legal residency status under Spanish law, and obtain a new identity card. More information is available here.


The government has issued a memorandum proposing that UK nationals and their family members who lose their right to live and work in Sweden as a consequence of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU without an exit deal will be exempt from the work and residence permit requirements during a one (1) year transitional period, effective March 30, 2019.

Proposed legislative amendments, which would be effective from July 1, 2019, aim to facilitate work and residence permit applications for UK nationals and their family members.


The agreement reached by the Swiss and UK governments protecting the rights of Swiss nationals currently residing in the UK and the reciprocal rights of UK nationals currently residing in Switzerland, after the UK leaves the EU, also covers a no-deal scenario. The agreement, signed on February 25, 2019, enters into force on January 1, 2021 in a deal scenario (after the transition period), or on March 30, 2019 in a no-deal scenario. The Swiss Federal Council has also decided that, in the event of the UK’s disorderly exit from the EU (i.e., without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement), a separate quota of work permits will be made available from March 30, 2019 to British citizens who wish to enter Switzerland to work.


The separation agreement reached between the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, protecting citizen’s rights after Brexit, does not cover a no-deal scenario, but the governments have also reached an EEA EFTA No Deal Citizens’ Rights Agreement to protect the rights of UK nationals living in the EEA EFTA states and EEA EFTA nationals in the UK, in a no-deal scenario.

Social Security

On February 26, 2019, the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament adopted measures aiming to safeguard entitlements to social security benefits based on insurance, employment or residence acquired before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

These contingency measures would apply to EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in one (1) of the twenty-seven (27) member states who have acquired social entitlements due to the free movement of people, and guarantee they do not lose those entitlements in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The measures will be adopted unilaterally by the EU if confirmed by a vote in the 11-14 March plenary session of the EU Parliament. Once the legislation is published, it will enter into force only if the UK leaves the EU with no withdrawal agreement in place.

Our Advice
  • UK nationals and their family members residing in an EU member state without an EU registration certificate (for EU citizens) or an EU residence card (for non-EU national family members), and without a pending application for one of these documents, are encouraged to submit an application for such documentation as soon as possible and, at any rate, before March 29, 2019, to make it easier for the national immigration authorities to determine their residence status.
  • UK nationals in the above situation are advised to gather documents in support of immigration applications, for example: copies of passport data pages, marriage and birth certificates for accompanying family members, employment contracts or assignment letters, CV/resume, current job description, educational certificates, police clearance certificates, rental contract, proof of health insurance and payslips.
  • Employers are advised to identify their UK population in EU member states (including their non-EU family members), to collect relevant supporting documents, and prepare and submit immigration applications in good time;
  • Employers should review business trips planned for April 2019, and have a back-up plan.

What you need to do

Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for assistance in developing the appropriate immigration strategy based on case background.

This alert was prepared with information provided by Newland Chase.